If you follow this blog, then you know where I am. If you know where I am then you know what WikiLeaks means to me. And you must know what a blow it was to learn of WikiLeaks going dormant earlier this week. For those who don’t, I post this.
You probably also know that this is an ill-advised blog post bordering on downright stupidity. But I’ve never been very smart and now more than ever I find remaining silent more frightening than speaking up.
A Harmonious Society
China has a philosophy called the Harmonious Society, an ideal of a balanced, peaceful nation. Fine as far as ideals go. But what this requires in practice is a parent-like governing body that decides what is and is not harmonious in its house. It decides what is not appropriate for its “children” – what they should know, what they should be exposed to, and what beliefs and attitudes should be cultivated in them. It removes the burden of information required to make these decisions themselves.
But information is hard to contain. And a people is more than its government. Many in the younger generation are exploring beyond the Great Firewall, sharing different ideas–foreign and locally grown–of a different sort of harmonious society.
I love living in China. Regardless of what goes on at Party headquarters, what is happening on the streets and in the homes and in the classrooms of China is reason to hope.
But I didn’t come here to revolutionize China. There are over a billion people here, many of whom prove on a daily basis that they are capable of speaking up for themselves and transforming their own society. I came here to revolutionize my own country. I came to learn and bring back a new perspective with which to take a fresh look in the mirror.
But until last year, I didn’t know how much a fresh look was needed.
Enter WikiLeaks. Enter 2010.
It was terrible. The revelations.
I never supported our wars, but actually seeing the crimes committed by Americans, I felt sick. And reading about so many blind eyes turned away from the atrocities, I was ashamed.
I also felt grateful.
After the horror and the shock and the denial, I felt grateful. Why? Because now I knew. Not that I didn’t think shit like this happened before. But now I knew. Now there was proof, there were records in official wording with names I recognized staring me–and the world–in the face. Now, turning a blind eye wouldn’t be enough. You’d have to be unconscious not to hear the uproar.
And knowing about a problem is the first step to fixing it. So I am grateful for knowing.
But the American reaction to transparency has been appalling.
I like to think that my reaction would have been the same were I at home. But I wasn’t that into politics. If I am honest with myself, it is only by being in a country that suppresses information to the extreme, that I could fully comprehend the need to know. Most Americans don’t have that advantage. Most Americans listen to their politicians and hear an American voice.
When I listened to my politicians I heard the same words–the same words–that I had heard defending the Harmonious Society. Any chance they might have had of convincing me that WikiLeaks was just a rogue, rabble-rousing organization with criminal tendencies, was gone the moment the justifications of the CCP fell from the lips of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and countless other politicians, reporters, and analysts.
And so I support WikiLeaks.
Not unconditionally, not blindly, maybe not perpetually. Yes, I want to know what they’re doing. I want to know what they’re spending my money on. I want them to prove that they can be trusted to work for the people and not for power or money or fame. They’ve got a ways to go towards transparency themselves. But, so long as they support knowing, then I support them.
Truth be told, that doesn’t matter. Not right now.
The financial blockade is not an attack aganst WikiLeaks. It is an attack against transparency. It is an attack that threatens any organization that facilitates knowing what our own government is up to, that gives us back the right to decide for ourselves whether we want to support that government. A government for the people and by the people cannot exist if the people are in the dark. Choice does not exist if the information to make the choices is not available.
The refusal of PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, etc. to process payments, freeze assets etc. is a political decision, not a legal one. It is not based upon some infringement of policy or law by WikiLeaks. This is a campagne of intimidation. It says: You may not be behind bars, but you are not free. If WikiLeaks can be cut off so easily, then who else can? Will the next witness to a war crime feel safe blowing the whistle? Will the journalist who receives a tip about a cover-up feel safe publishing it?
So you think WikiLeaks is dangerous. It probably is.
So you think Julian Assange is a dick. He probably is.
But this is not an attack on WikiLeaks. It is not an attack on Julian Assange. It is an attack on a political movement. Support WikiLeaks or not, as your conscience dictates. But support the movement that gives the ability to govern back to the people.
Peter Sunde, founder of Flattr, had this to say about the blockade against WikiLeaks:
It doesn’t really matter if you like WikiLeaks or not. It’s about allowing private companies to decide if there is a WikiLeaks or not. The judges should be the people – and possibly courts – but never a for-profit company.
More than an attack on a specific movement, the financial blockade is an attack on the very right of any peaceful movement to exist. I do not just support WikiLeaks, I support the right of Wikileaks to exist as a peaceful, law-abiding organization–the right to exist even if corporations, governments, and yes, even you, disagree with it.
I may not agree with what you have to say but I will defend to the death your right to say it. ~Voltaire
If WikiLeaks dies, let it be because of their own failings and not because of an unjust financial blockade. So help Wikileaks. Help them prove themselves, if that is what they’ll do. Help them fail if that is what they will do. But do NOT help a handful companies throttle them in their sleep.
The words of the Flattr-founder are not empty. Right now, Flattr is one of the few, and certainly one of most reliable ways to donate. But I chose to donate with them not only because they are reliable, but because Flattr stood up when almost nobody else did. Because these guys have the balls to stand where others are being knocked down again and again. For that, I’ll use their service on principle.
I have been talking about how great Flattr is lately. But it’s even better than I thought. Before, I have been excited and I have been hopeful but today is the first day I have been thankful.
Flattr, you are fucking awesome.